Screenplay transitions are words or phrases used by screenwriters to indicate a change in the scene or time in the story. These transitions can include “CUT TO,” “DISSOLVE TO,” “FADE TO BLACK,” and “INT./EXT.” to indicate a change in location or time. These transitions are important for the director and actors to understand the intended flow of the story and to help the audience follow along. In addition to these standard transitions, screenwriters can also use creative and unique transitions to add a layer of style to their work. Overall, the use of transitions can help to create a smooth and seamless experience for the viewer.
Here we discuss all things about screenplay transitions. We cover what a transition is, why we use transitions and what each type of transition is and when to use these correctly.
What is a screenplay transitions?
A transition in film (and in your screenplay) is a technique used in post production to combined different shots and scenes. The most common transition is “Cut to” – a simple cut to the next shot/scene.
Why do we need transitions?
We need these to help tell the story in the movie and to ensure a smooth transition between shots and scenes. Transitions were initially used in the script to help the post production team when editing the footage.
Remember to use the big transitions to show an integral moment in your screenplay, when you want the reader to really notice the transition and read in depth the key scene.
Screenplay Transitions List:
Here are some screenplay transitions examples that are typically used.
- Cut to
- Dissolve to
- Fade in
- Fade out
- Fade to
- Jump Cut to
- Match cut to
- Smash cut to
- Wipe to
- Time cut
This is the most common out of all transitions. The screenplay transition “CUT TO” is used to indicate a sudden change in the scene or time in the story. This transition is typically used to move the story forward quickly, often to heighten the tension or create a sense of urgency. For example, a character might be in the middle of a conversation when suddenly “CUT TO” is used to indicate that they are now in a different location, engaged in a different activity. This transition helps the reader understand that time has passed and that the character has moved on to a different situation.
In addition to its use in moving the story forward, “CUT TO” can also be used to create contrast or emphasis. For example, a character might be in a happy and peaceful setting, but a “CUT TO” could indicate that they are now in a dark and dangerous situation. This transition can help to create a sense of contrast and highlight the contrast between the two scenes.
Overall, the “CUT TO” transition is an essential tool for screenwriters to create a fast-paced and engaging story. By using this transition effectively, screenwriters can help the reader understand the flow of the story and keep them engaged in the narrative.
Dissolve to is where one scene ends and fades another scene fades into place. It’s one of the most difficult transitions to perfect and usually leads to a key scene or shot in the movie. It’s definitely an art form and you’ll find it used in a contemporary style more often than not.
The term “dissolve to” is a transition used in screenplays that indicates a smooth transition from one scene to the next. It is typically used to show the passage of time or to indicate a change in location.
In a screenplay, transitions are used to indicate how one shot or scene should flow into the next. Dissolve to is one of the most commonly used transitions, along with fade to black and cut to.
To use the dissolve to transition in a screenplay, the writer would simply include the words “dissolve to” in the transition area between two scenes. For example:
INT. OFFICE – DAY
We see a busy office, with people typing at their desks and talking on the phone.
INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY
We see a cozy living room, with a fire crackling in the fireplace and a couple sitting on the couch.
The dissolve to transition indicates a smooth transition from the busy office scene to the cozy living room scene. It allows the director and editor to create a seamless transition between the two scenes in the final film.
READ MORE: 7 screenwriting tips for beginners
Fade to/Fade in/Fade out
These three transitions are rarely used now within a screenplay. These have now been replaced by the more complex transition to highlight a key scene or shot. However, anything that you will usually find the fade in at the start of the screenplay and fade out at the end of a screenplay.
The term “fade to” is a transition used in screenplays to indicate a gradual transition from one scene to the next. It is often used to indicate the passage of time, or to transition between scenes that take place in different locations.
In a screenplay, transitions are used to indicate how one shot or scene should flow into the next. Fade to is one of the most commonly used transitions, along with dissolve to and cut to.
To use the fade to transition in a screenplay, the writer would simply include the words “fade to” in the transition area between two scenes. For example:
INT. CAFE – DAY
We see a crowded cafe, with people chatting and sipping coffee.
INT. BEDROOM – DAY
We see a cozy bedroom, with sunlight streaming in through the window.
The fade to transition indicates a gradual transition from the bustling cafe scene to the peaceful bedroom scene. It allows the director and editor to create a smooth and seamless transition between the two scenes in the final film.
Jump cut to
This transition isn’t used in the same format as most. It’s used to show a jump in time between each jump cut. The shots are usually sequential with one key factor changing in each shot to show the progression in time.
The term “jump cut to” is a transition used in screenplays to indicate a sudden and abrupt change from one scene to the next. It is often used to create a disjointed or jarring effect, and can be used to indicate a change in time or location.
In a screenplay, transitions are used to indicate how one shot or scene should flow into the next. Jump cut to is a less commonly used transition, compared to fade to and dissolve to.
To use the jump cut to transition in a screenplay, the writer would simply include the words “jump cut to” in the transition area between two scenes. For example:
INT. PARK – DAY
We see a peaceful park, with people strolling and children playing.
JUMP CUT TO:
INT. POLICE STATION – DAY
We see a chaotic police station, with officers rushing and shouting.
The jump cut to transition indicates a sudden and abrupt change from the tranquil park scene to the chaotic police station scene. It allows the director and editor to create a jarring effect that grabs the viewer’s attention and keeps them on their toes.
A great example of this can be found here: Jump Cut
Match cut to
A match cut is a transition in which the two shots are matched together. This is an interesting transition which can help you lead into a key scene with a smooth transaction. This is one of our favourites, it’s a really creative transition which can help form your style. A great example of this is – a character may be holding a specific object whilst transitioning, into the next holding something similar but in a different environment.
A great example video can be found here: Match cut examples
Smash cut to
A Smash cut is an extremely technical transition. It’s great for creating an unexpected dramatic effect within your film. You can use this perfectly by cutting from one extreme to the other to give the audience an idea of the extremity of the scene they’ve just witnessed.
This transition is as simple as it sounds. It’s a wipe from one side of the frame to the other, transitioning into the next scene.
An example can be seen here: Star Wars wipe transition
These usually take place in the same location but with different characters to show the difference in time. There are multiple ways to film this whether it’s with a montage style, showing the character passing time, or changing the characters in the location. This will give the audience an idea that time is passing.
CUT TO Conclusion
So there you have it! These screenplay transitions will certainly help you structure your project and help tell the story in the movie and to ensure a smooth transition between shots and scenes.
FADE TO BLACK